- The Washington Times - Wednesday, August 8, 2007

HUNTINGTON, Utah (AP) — Crews trying to get food and air to six coal miners drilled to within about 1,000 feet of the trapped men today and hoped to reach them in about two days, one of the mine’s owners said.

It still wasn’t known whether the miners were alive more than two days after the initial cave-in, said Bob Murray, chairman of Murray Energy Corp., co-owner of the Crandall Canyon mine.

However, the progress was substantially better than last night, when crews had to halt drilling because of unstable ground.

Teams also were drilling a second, larger hole that could be used to get food to the miners, 1,500 feet below ground. Efforts to clear tunnels leading to the chamber where the men were thought to be trapped were to resume this afternoon, Mr. Murray said.

He cautioned that the work was tricky because of steep slopes and other factors at the mine.

If the drilling goes off target, “we’ve got to start drilling again,” Mr. Murray said.

If the miners are alive, he said they could survive on available air “for perhaps weeks.”

The government’s chief safety official in the West was more cautious.

“We’re hoping there’s air down there. We have no way of knowing that,” said Al Davis of the Mine Safety and Health Administration.

Four miners escaped Monday, but they were not in the same area as their trapped co-workers, Mr. Murray said.

He said he had invited the son of one trapped miner and the brother of another with him on a trip inside the mine to show them the progress of the rescue efforts.

Mr. Murray also renewed his attacks on press coverage of the disaster and continued to insist that the collapse was caused by an earthquake, contradicting seismologists who said the cave-in itself was what registered a 3.9 magnitude.

“From our mining experience, we know this was an earthquake,” Mr. Murray said.

“It seems to me the media’s more concerned about trying to place blame than they are about the families and the actual rescue effort underground,” he added.